Film / Music / Performance
Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair
As a pilgrimage in memory of Edith Swan Neck, King Harold’s mistress, filmmaker Andrew Kötting and author Iain Sinclair have walked 80 miles from Waltham Abbey in Essex to St Leonards-on-Sea in Sussex, via Battle Abbey, inspiring a film, bookwork and live performance with Claudia Barton, Jem Finer, Anonymous Bosch and David Aylward.
After his death in 1066, pieces of Harold's body were brought to Waltham for burial near the High Altar. The walk will re-connect the lovers, who are depicted in a remarkable sculpture at Grosvenor Gardens in St Leonards, after 950 years of separation.
Andrew states 'The 80 mile tread will enable us to reflect upon all things E D I T H. Stopping each night for food and shelter will be our only luxury, conversation within the landscape our only company. We will walk the work into existence and out of it will come words and sounds that will inform the project.
Who you walk with alters what you see; the view, the prospect ..
We will produce a bookwork of our journey which will include thoughts and recollections, snapshots and souvenirs. Ever mindful of Edith Swan Neck and her heartache, we will be looking for a libretto that might comfort or console her.
We will also film the walk on super 8 as well as the iconic and sadly overlooked sculpture. We will dig into it like archaeologists keen to get to the heart of the matter, and then in September 2016 there will be a performance to commemorate both the battle and the journey. We will perform live to a projection of the film, with spoken word and music.
Iain Sinclair, Claudia Barton, Jem Finer, Anonymous Bosch and David Aylward are my companions on this journey with E D I T H as our hallucination.'
Edith looked silently up into the merciless eyes of the tall Norman.
He was completely unmoved by her tears. She had searched through the slaughter for hours already, and had found no trace of her true love’s remains. She had held her skirts high to avoid soiling them with the blood and carnage… and then she saw him….
Deeply the Abbot of Waltham sighed
When he heard the news of woe:
How King Harold had come to a pitiful end,
And on Hastings field lay low.
One, Edith of the Swan's Neck, dwells
In a hovel poor and rude.
They named her thus, because her neck
Was once as slim and white
As any swan's--when, long ago,
She was the king's delight.
He loved and kissed, forsook, forgot,
For such is the way of men.
Time runs his course with a rapid foot;
It is sixteen years since then.
On the field of Hastings, where he fought.
The king is lying slain.
Arise and come with us; we seek
Andrew Kötting & Iain Sinclair
His body among the dead.
To Waltham Abbey it shall be borne.
T’was thus our Abbot said.
Come on, you harlot!
Came the voice of her tormentor, “Hurry up and find your lord’s carcass! The Duke’s got us digging a new latrine!”
To search for the corpse on the battle-plain.
Among the bloody dead.
The monks arose and went sadly forth,
And returned as heavy-hearted.
O Father, the world's a bitter world,
And evil days have started.
Then at last she saw him.
His head half hewn from his shoulders, one eye pierced by the point of a Norman arrow, the other lay closed in unmolested serenity, as if despite his awful, mutilated state he was yet reposed in some distant, peaceful slumber.
Edith gently cradled her lover’s bloodied body.
She bathed his gaping wounds with her many tears. And it was Harold, confirmed by the little dragon-shaped birthmarks on his chest and the tiny scar she had left on him after their first night of mad love-making.
From "The Battlefield of Hastings" by Heinrich Heine